Charles Lloyd's Journey Towards Love

. April 10, 2012.
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I was 11 years old in 1966. It would be four more years before I appreciated what happened at the Monterey Jazz Festival that pivotal year. Charles Lloyd's Atlantic Records release "Forest Flower" was the first jazz record I remember hearing. It was a life-changing experience of the art of improvisational beauty. And, hey, it's not just me. While only a lucky few were in attendance, the album sold over a million copies and clearly touched the beauty bone for lots of folks! The album revealed the mastery of saxophonist Lloyd and his remarkably telepathic young quartet which included pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Four years later Jarrett and DeJohnette were part of Miles Davis' searing electric band that performed at the Cellar Door in D.C. and the Isle of Wight Pop Festival.

That day in 1966 they performed Lloyd's magnum opus "Forest Flower," a gorgeous and sophisticated suite in two parts: "Sunrise" and "Sunset." Lloyd's lovely lines and deeply personal tone spoke to the virtues of love and beauty in ways that were readily — even tangibly — recognizable, even to a jazz neophyte. The record has demonstrated tremendous staying power — Jarrett's piano solo is still breathtaking. Like his fellow sax cat Sonny Rollins, though, Lloyd himself would periodically drop out of the scene only to reemerge with new bands and new conceptions. His controversial album for A&M called "Wave" was greeted with mixed reactions: some listeners were mesmerized while others were disappointed. I was in the former camp. That date featured the voices of the Beach Boys and three great guitarists: Hungarian gypsy stylist Gabor Szabo, the recognizable 12-string sounds of the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, and newcomer Dewayne "Blackbird" McKnight who would later team up with George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic group.

After another fallow period he returned in the '80s with a group that introduced a little giant — the now-deceased dwarf pianist Michel Petrucciani. They famously revisited "Forest Flower" with their celebratory new
arrangement. By the "aughts" Charles Lloyd had a new home with ECM records, where he continued to present music of great healing power with the acclaimed Detroit pianist
Geri Allen.

It is a cause for celebration that the tireless love warrior, now a septuagenarian, is returning to Ann Arbor. The University Musical Society presents the Charles Lloyd New Quartet at the Michigan Theater Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m. The new band speaks of Lloyd's restless creativity, featuring Macarthur fellow Jason Moran on piano, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.

I will be on the radio, but you readers…well…

ON BOARD AT THE ARK

Pertinent dates at the Ark include neo-swingers Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Monday, April 9 at 8 p.m.

I want to pull your sleeve to the soulful British singer-songwriter-guitarist James Hunter. He returns to the Ark Sunday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. This cat is really deep — and deeply satisfying!

Readers should mark their calendars for some great Ark dates in May! Madeleine Peyroux hits Thursday, May 10 at 8 p.m. Her sultry, slurry vocals are very distinctive! Panamanian piano genius Danilo Perez performs Thursday, May 24 at 8 p.m. Long, tall Marcia Ball bring her New Orleans "party in a piano" Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m. A rollicking good time is
guaranteed, "Chère!"

AT THE KERRYTOWN CONCERT HOUSE

The JaLaLa Trio feature former Manhattan Transfer vocalists Janis Siegel and Laurel Masse, and Lauren Kinhan of New York Voices. They are set to light up Kerrytown Concert House Wednesday, April 4 at 8 p.m. Detroit saxophone legend Wendell Harrison's Detroit Swing Ensemble is slated for Saturday, April 7 at 8 p.m. Acclaimed singer Gretchen Parlato performs Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Look out and listen up! The Ellen Rowe Trio with Paul Keller and Pete Siers celebrate the legacy of Ray Brown Sunday, April 15 at 2 pm. Ann Arbor bassist Ben Rolston has a CD release party Friday, April 20 at 8 p.m. His band features reedman Andrew Bishop and trumpeter Ingrid Racine in the front line. The Ron Brooks Trio with pianist Tad Weed play the SEMJA Awards Concert Saturday, April 21 at 7 p.m. Bassist Rodney Whitaker's Sextet hits hard Saturday, April 28 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The band has Diego Rivera on sax with trumpeter Etienne Charles.

KCH dates for May include Etienne Charles Quintet playing Afro-Caribbean Jazz Friday, May 5 at 8 p.m. Bassist Dave Sharp's Secret Seven play muscular modern jazz Friday, May 11at 8 p.m. The Ellen Rowe Trio's Mother's Day concert honors Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland Sunday, May 13 at 2 p.m. The Dobbins-Krahnke-Weed Trio brings music and conversation to KCH Fri. May 18 at 8 p.m.

A BIG HEARTY “THANK YOU ALL!”

Before signing off I want to thank all of you who pledged your support to WEMU 89.1 FM during our spring pledge drive in March. We are so happy to be working with you and for you! We couldn't do it without you!